FIRST PUBLIC KNOWLEDGE THAT GERMANY HAD SURRENDERED - TELETYPE PRINT-OUT AND PUNCH TAPE FROM THE PENTAGON'S WAR MESSAGE ROOM
A most historic set of relics, the public's first notification that the German government and German armed forces had capitulated, as received in the Pentagon's War Message Room in the early afternoon of May 7, 1945. This highly-important lot consists of three original teletype print-outs and one teletype punch tape with printed text, all relating to the speech of Chancellor Lutz Graf Schwerin von Krosigk announcing Germany's surrender to the world. His speech would force the Allies to declare the war in Europe has being ended, and it sparked massive celebrations around the world. As all military communications of every type sent to the U.S. were routed first through the War Department Message Center, this would be the first time any individual in the United States beyond Harry Truman would officially know that Germany had surrendered. The first teletype message, the first original printed, was sent on May 7 at 1431 local. It is headed "URGENT" and reads in part: "...FLASH...FLENSBURG...THIS IS GERMAN RADIO STOP WE ARE NOW BROADCASTING AN ADDRESS BY REICHMINISTER COUNT SCHWERIN VON KROSIGK TO GERMAN PEOPLE...GERMAN MEN AND WOMEN EXCLAMATION HIGH COMMAND OF ARMED FORCES HAS TODAY AT ORDER OF GRAND ADMIRAL DOENITZ DECLARED UNCONDITIONAL SURRENDER OF ALL FIGHTING GERMAN TROOPS...". Also present is the original carbon of the same teletype message. Present is another teletype print-out, original, received fourteen minutes later at 1445, likewise headed "URGENT" four times. It partially quotes von Krosigk's historic speech: "...EYE TURN AT THIS TRAGIC MOMENT OF OUR HISTORY TO GERMAN NATION STOP AFTER HEROIC FIGHT OF ALMOST SIX YEARS OF INCOMPARABLE HARDNESS GERMANY HAS SUCCUMBER TO OVERWHELMING POWER OF HER ENEMIES STOP TO CONTINUE WAR WOULD ONLY MEAN SENSELESS BLOODSHED AND FUTILE DISINTEGRATION STOP GOVERNMENT...WAS COMPELLED TO ACT ON COLLAPSE OF ALL PHYSICAL AND MATERIAL FORCES AND TO DEMAND OF ENEMY CESSATION OF HOSTILITIES...". All three printed messages are addressed: "TO WAR [DEPARTMENT] WOIA GRNC". Finally, present is the approx. ten foot long 5/8" teletype machine punch tape with printed text produced as a record and backup of the above message. The first two print-outs bear folds, tears, splits and tape remnants, some repaired archivally, but all should be professionally attended to. The third telegram and teletype tape are very good. All four pieces were obtained by Technician Third Grade Jerome C. Boehner 32-462-930 of the 17th Signal Co. Copies of his Army separation documents are present indicating that Boehmer served as "Message Center Chief" after having served as a Teletype Operator and Message Center Clerk. He was discharged on Feb. 19, 1946. In a 2011 letter of provenance (copy included), Boehmer states: ...I am a 93 year old World War II veteran who was assigned...in the Pentagon War Department Message Center. I was on duty 5/7/45 when the German surrender messages were received. The original teletype tape...has been on display in a glass domed case for 69 years, together with the print out of the surrender message...plus the printed message to the German people about the surrender of all German troops..." This grouping was sold by the veteran to an antiques dealer in the U.S. who in turn has consigned it to us. On May 4, Hitler's successor, Adm. Karl Dönitz, instructed Adm. Hans-Georg von Friedeburg to go to the headquarters of the Allied Expeditionary Force to negotiate terms for a general surrender with Eisenhower, but a sticking point was that the Allies insisted on unconditional surrender, including cessation of hostilities with the Soviets. On the next day, May 5, von Friedeburg arrived at Eisenhower's headquarters at Rheims, France, to negotiate a total surrender. Jodl arrived a day later. Dönitz had instructed them to draw out the negotiations for as long as possible so that German troops and refugees could move west to surrender to the Western Powers. When it was obvious that the Germans were stalling, Eisenhower threatened to reopen hostilities. When Dönitz learned this, he radioed Jodl full powers to sign the unconditional German Instrument of Surrender at 1:30 AM on the morning of May 7. At 2:41 on May 7th, the surrender was signed in Rheims, to come into effect at 11:01 PM May 8. Stalin, however, refused to accept the document, insisting that any surrender be made in Berlin, resulting in confusion between Allied leaders as to when an official announcement of the surrender should be made. The dispute was settled when, at 2:26 PM on May 7 (five minutes before our telegram was sent and received), von Krosigk made his famous speech declaring the surrender of Germany to the German people. (See The Day the War Ended: May 8, 1945 - Victory in Europe by Martin Gilbert). Thus, this teletype message is the first official notice to the American armed forces that Germany had surrendered and that VE day had finally arrived.